In 2010, Jose Garces joined Mario Batali, Masaharu Morimoto, Bobby Flay, and a pantheon of other modern culinary greats when he was named an Iron Chef.
Garces could certainly hold his own competing in the show’s Kitchen Stadium. No surprise given that he began cooking in his grandmother’s kitchen, continued with culinary school in his hometown of Chicago, and culminated with stints at top restaurants in both Spain and New York.
But it was in Philadelphia that he started building a food empire that now includes more than a dozen restaurants in six cities, a taco truck, and a 40-acre organic farm in Bucks County. Garces’s culinary interests are varied: Distrito celebrates the food of Mexico City, Buena Onda serves fish tacos inspired by the Baja Peninsula, Tinto highlights Spain’s Basque region, and Amada (for which Garces won a James Beard Award in 2009) offers authentic Andalusian tapas. Along the way, he’s also published two cookbooks, Latin Evolution and The Latin Road Home.
Drinks are just as important as food at Garces’s restaurants—Distrito has more than 250 tequilas on offer, and his restaurant Village Whiskey naturally pairs a legendary burger with more than 200 whiskies from around the world. So, where does the chef like to drink around Philly when he isn’t at one of his own establishments? Here are his top three drinks in the city.
Papi Collins at Library Bar
Tucked into the elegant Rittenhouse Hotel, the Library Bar has been shaking up a variety of craft cocktails for more than three years. For Garces, the main attraction is the watering hole’s head bartender, Pablo “Papi” Hurtado, a mixological veteran who’s worked all over the world, including 10 years in London. Papi’s signature Collins is Garces’s go-to order, a refreshing mix of gin, cucumber, and lemon, topped with sparkling wine. “Not only is the drink delicious, but Papi also offers an extremely welcoming level of hospitality and goodwill,” Garces says.
Yards Golden Hop IPA at Cherry St. Tavern
“This bar’s atmosphere is a real throwback,” Garces says. “It’s been a neighborhood staple since 1905!” However, during Prohibition, the bar was ripped out and replaced with a barber’s chair. But rumor has it that you could still get a drink with your shave and haircut. It’s now known for its hot sandwiches, and Garces recommends the roast pork with provolone and hot peppers alongside the light-bodied Golden Hop IPA brewed just a few miles away at Yards Brewing.
Anything with Gosling’s Family Reserve Old Rum at Hop Sing Laundromat
Hop Sing Laundromat is one of Philadelphia’s best-known cocktail bars, but it inspires strong reactions both positive and negative thanks to a strict dress code, no-cellphone policy and refusal to accept credit cards. So bring cash and shut off your phone when you visit! There’s a cocktail menu, but Garces prefers to leave his choice in the hands of owner/bartender Lê (who goes by only one name). “I happen to be a huge rum fan, and Lê always has the Gosling’s Family Reserve on hand, ready to be expertly mixed into a delicious cocktail,” Garces says. The Bermudian rum is an extra-dark, extra-aged spirit that almost works like a whiskey in mixed drinks.